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How Foot Dysfunction Can Lead to Other Problems

How Foot Dysfunction Can Lead to Other Problems 

Everything in the body is connected to each other, which means that problems in one area of the body can be caused by a problem in another area. Forces that we encounter every day when going through our daily lives start when we walk and travel up the leg. The amount of force that comes from concrete or other hard surfaces is a whole lot more in comparison to a dirt or grass surface.

Commonly the arches in the foot drop which will throw off the mechanics of the foot. This can lead to problems with the alignment of the entire body. Overpronation and oversupination of the foot can lead to serious and chronic back pain.

Pronation and Overpronation

Pronation describes the way that the foot rolls inward during its normal motion. During normal walking, it starts when the heel hits the ground and will continue all the way through the toe off. If the joints in the foot are not moving correctly, there is direct correlation improper gait.

In order for the foot to function properly there must be a significant degree of pronation. However, excessive pronation, or over pronation, can cause injury and damage to the foot and ankle. It causes the arch in the foot to flatten and the ligaments, tendons, and muscles under the foot overstretch. If the foot is stuck in the flattened position for a long period of time, it can cause long term problems.


Supination describes the way the foot rolls outward during its normal motion. It occurs during the toe off part of the gait cycle. The heel leaves the ground and the motion carries through as weight is transferred to the forefront and toes. It moves the body in a forward direction. We see this happen faster when running or walking fast.

When there is excessive supination, or oversupination, it strains the tendons and muscles that provide stabilization for the ankle. This can cause the ankle to roll, causing injury to the ankle including sprain, a torn tendon, or ligament rupture. With a sprain or injury to the ligaments or tendons, it makes the ankle joint unstable, which can cause the foot to not function properly.


Overpronation and oversupination can cause a variety of injuries and conditions that affect, not only the feet and ankles, but also the knees, hips, and back as well. Some of the more common injuries and conditions include:

  • Flat feet
  • Ankle sprains
  • Achilles tendinitis
  • Arch pain
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Corns
  • Shin splints
  • Heel pain
  • Tight calves
  • Calluses
  • Knee pain
  • Patellar tendonitis
  • Hip pain
  • Tight hip flexors
  • Back pain
  • Sciatica
  • Herniated disks
  • Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction
  • Shoulder problems
  • TMJ

How the foot affects the spine and other areas of the body

Problems with the foot can very easily cause a domino effect that extends all the way up the spine. The feet are the foundation of the body and when there is a problem with the way they function it can cause the entire body to shift out of alignment. If the joints are not able to move how they are intended, the body has to work harder and improperly.

For example, when dealing with overpronation of the foot the foot has rolled inward. This causes the tibia to rotate in and will put pressure on the medial knee joint. It can cause the femur to rotate which can cause hip pain. The pelvis will drop on the side of the problem putting torque on the low back. The sacroiliac joint will become inflamed. The lumbar spine will be pulled harder to one side since the muscles that attach to the hip also attach to the discs and vertebrae in this area. This continues up the spine to the shoulders. We commonly see that one shoulder will be higher than the other and it is usually the opposite shoulder of the foot dysfunction.

Can chiropractic help with foot dysfunction?

Chiropractic can help with foot dysfunction as well as other problems with the body. Instead of treating symptoms, a chiropractor will look at the body as a whole to figure out the problem. When looking at conditions like overpronation or oversupination, it helps to get an idea of what type of shoe the person is wearing. High heeled shoes, flip flops, sandals all cause more stress on the foot and can create improper foot mechanics. People who wear tennis shoes should look at the shoe and make sure that they get a shoe that is proper for their foot. You need a shoe that mimics the foot and bends in the correct place. You also need to make sure there is a firm heel support. After assessing the footwear of the person it is time to adjust.

Adjusting the spine should be the first thing the Chiropractor should do before going to the feet. After this has been accomplished, it is time to move to the feet. It is important to move the joints of the foot and figure out how much motion is there. If the motion of the joints is lacking, adjusting the feet to get the motion back into the joints is necessary. After the motion is restored in the foot, the chiropractor can tape the foot in a way that will mimic proper motion or they can let patient leave. Depending on how severe the problem is, a customized, functional orthotic may be necessary. The customized functional orthotics allow for the arches to be lifted and allow for proper mechanics of the foot.

Cory T. O’Lear-Zebroski, D.C. 

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